A new policy report from the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration warns that “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.” This apocalyptic vision of the year 2050 follows a long tradition of counterproductive doomsaying.

Former Vice President, and Democratic presidential nominee hopeful, Joe Biden, has recently placed the “point of no return” even sooner, in just 12 years’ time. “[H]ow we act or fail to act in the next 12 years will determine the very livability of our planet,” he said earlier this week.

Environmental problems are certainly real, but alarmists do a disservice to the cause of tackling those challenges when they use cataclysmic language to describe the near future.

As Harvard University’s Steven Pinker noted in his book Enlightenment Now, psychological research has shown that “people are likelier to accept the fact of global warming when they are told that the problem is solvable by innovations in policy and technology than when they are given dire warnings about how awful it will be”.

But instead of focusing on solutions, like nuclear power, which does not emit CO2, and other technological breakthroughs that have the potential to reduce carbon emissions, some well-meaning people resort to apocalyptic rhetoric. Humanity has reached the “point of no return” many times already, according to past doomsayers.

In 2006, Al Gore warned that unless drastic measures were taken “within the next 10 years,” the world would “reach a point of no return.” That would place “the point of no return” in 2016.

Thirty years ago, in 1989, an unidentified senior U.N. environmental official told the Associated Press that “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels” if drastic action was not taken by the year 2000. The ocean has not swallowed any nations since his prognostication.

In 1982, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program Mostafa Tolba said that lack of action by the year 2000 would bring “an environmental catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible, as any nuclear holocaust.” His prediction of an environmental “nuclear holocaust” in just 18 years failed to materialize.

Back in 1970, Harvard University biologist George Wald claimed that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” His prediction would place the end of civilization sometime between 1985 and 2000.

Also in 1970, North Texas State University philosopher Peter Gunter wrote, “By the year 2000, 30 years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, wil